Local History

East Boldre oral history project

East Boldre Oral History and memories of the New Forest

Lots to talk about - and listen to!

East Boldre Oral History is a fabulous project to enable us to listen to the memories of residents of the parish who were born and brought up in this fascinating New Forest village - once a squatters' settlement


Listening station at the Turfcutters ArmsEast Boldre Oral History (EBOH) has gathered and collated fascinating reflections which are spoken aloud by living residents of East Boldre who were born and brought up in the village, whose memories stretch back to encompass a social history which thanks to the pace of change seems to speak from long, long ago!  

This exciting project explores how the village has changed, from its origin as a squatter’s settlement to the present day.

Listen at various listening stations see below - including in comfort over a pint and home cooked meal at the Turfcutters Arms

We'll start to feature individual stories in coming weeks in Weekly What's On and across our social media...


Weekly What's On in Lymington and the New Forest

To follow the individual stories which we shall feature over coming weeks, if you don't already receive it sign up now for our Weekly What's On e-newsletter (including many community events which are free or low charge). You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we shall share the stories too. It's also free to add your own events to our Events Calendar

 
 
 

East Boldre oral history projectListen to the stories through the listening stations at the Turfcutters Arms, in the village and at Hatchet Pond 

EBOH has recorded and transcribed memories from residents and now the stories can be heard through listening stations which have been installed in the village.

The Turfcutters Arms houses a listening station where the public can hear stories about East Boldre Characters and childhood memories (this is accessible during pub opening hours)

Three further listening stations are installed in East Boldre Village Hall and School Fields Trust Hall (these are accessible by appointment).

Oral history interpretation is also sited in the adopted BT kiosk at Hatchet Pond village - this includes a QR codes which link to a sound cloud where audio recordings are available:

https://soundcloud.com/user-510714237

 
East Boldre oral history project - Turfcutters Arms panelsThe aims of the project which as you can imagine has taken some time in the making were to:

• Record memories and tales of an East Boldre as it was.
• Install a sense of community and pride – giving a voice to the families who have lived in the village for generations and who are aware of the fast-changing community.
• Capture memories before they are lost.
• Help people who live in or visit East Boldre recognise its history and character.
• Encourage people to share time together to talk about heritage.
• Celebrate gypsy traveller and commoning heritage.
• Work with local schools to help children understand the village history. We have run workshops at South Baddesley, William Gilpin and will also work with Beaulieu School; taking contributors to the schools to discuss their memories.

Support and funding from a number of sources

This fascinating project has had support and funding from: New Forest National Park Authority, East Boldre Parish Council, Hampshire County Council, Beaufort Trust, East Boldre Village Hall Trust, East Boldre School Fields Trust, NF Heritage Centre and New Forest District Council.

Celebrations once Covid restrictions are finally lifted...

Sadly Covid 19 has temporarily scuppered plans for a big official opening of the listening stations but we there are plans to celebrate when restrictions are lifted. This has been a hugely successful project which celebrates heritage and pride in belonging to an amazing community!

We plan through the coming weeks to showcase some of the individual stories and give everybody a little taste of life in the not so long ago past yet some of which feels as though it took place very long ago indeed, such is the pace of change!

Book Somerville's War by Andrew Duncan

Somerville’s War - New Forest novel featuring local Spitfire woman

Somerville’s War – a new, New Forest novel

Featuring one of the 160 ATA ‘Spitfire women’ who was a very local lady

Somerville's War author Andrew DuncanIntroducing local historian Andrew Duncan and his new book Somerville's War - which features not only infamous spy and traitor Kim Philby but also Andrew's own mother, who along with other courageous women played an important role in the Second World War.

"Getting a first novel noticed in your late 60s can be as hard as winning the Round the Island Race in a pedalo.  However, a local setting for the story may, in theory, help you off the starting blocks.

Somerville’s War begins and ends in 1940-41 at Beaulieu, renamed Somerville. Lymington, its neighbouring town, renamed Milton, comes into the story together with a cast of Somerville residents. Its main female character is a local girl who gets caught up in a tense Spitfire dogfight over the heath to the north of Beaulieu and Lymington, escaping over the Solent and round the Needles. Dan Snow has described the story as one for ‘anyone who loves the New Forest’ – however its scope is much wider than just the Forest, the action moving to London and then occupied France.

1940s Beaulieu River ATA girls sailingMy family have lived at Beaulieu since the 1920s so I could rely on some local knowledge and insights. The main male character, Brigadier Maxwell, has a house on the Beaulieu River and is loosely based on my grandmother (yes, trans-gendered into a man) who also lived on the river. He is captain of the local sailing club, and although odd – he almost never speaks and when he does it’s an agonizingly slow drawl – no one suspects that he is leading a double life. Instead of going back to London each week to the War Office, he is doubling back unseen to help set up a Special Operations Executive (SOE) finishing school for spies, agents and saboteurs in the woods behind the Beaulieu village.

SOE Beaulieu is far from fictional: among its graduates are some of WW2’s most famous men and women agents including Odette Churchill (pictured right) who survived torture by the Gestapo, Violet Szabo who died in a Odette Churchillconcentration camp and Ben Cowburn, hero of at least four dramatically successful missions.

One of the SOE Beaulieu lecturers was none other than master spy and traitor Kim Philby (pictured below left). This is moderately common knowledge, but not the fact that his subject was black propaganda and subversion. Even today, historically aware Beaulieu residents find it extraordinary, perhaps a bit creepy, that this supremely dangerous man spent time in Beaulieu. His fictional counterpart in the story is Adrian Russell who, bored with teaching (as Philby was – he itched to get back to London) decides to amuse himself by subverting the local sailing club.

Kim PhilbyThe fictional possibilities of Maxwell and Philby seemed to me to be interesting, and gave me a start with the plot. To add some spice Maxwell’s daughter Leo, who is training to be an ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) pilot is also having a romance with one of Maxwell’s trainees Labrador, a mysterious Pole, at the spy school.  My mother (who died 1988) was one of the 160 ATA ‘Spitfire women’ and as far as I know the only one to have grown up in the New Forest, so I had some first-hand material for that strand too.

Leo has another admirer, Henry Dunning-Green the son of a wealthy local family, whom she finds dull.  Unknown to her, he is also training as a saboteur at SOE Beaulieu.

Somervilles War book coverHow she, Labrador and Henry end up under the same roof in occupied France on a do or die mission is for you to discover. People are saying that it did keep them turning the pages. 

So if you want a story with strong local interest that – as the reviews put it – is ‘enthalling’, ‘high-octane,’ a ‘great read’ and a ‘sensitive story of relationships’ then Somerville’s War may be for you. In the best tradition of intelligent thrillers it’s intended to be not just a compelling read but a psychological tale which may help you understand why humans are so prone to obsession."

Somerville’s War by Andrew Duncan can be purchased from bookshops and online.

For more information and a video see the book’s website, www.somervilleswar.com

If you have enjoyed reading this article and you don't already receive our Lymington and New Forest Weekly What's On e-newsletter do sign up here to receive it direct to your inbox on Friday mornings!

 
 
 

 

 

Beaulieu submarine

Buckler’s Hard, New Forest maritime workshop of renown

Buckler’s Hard New Forest, maritime workshop of renown

Reflections on our maritime past and safe havens too by Mark and Hugh

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400This week's reflection by Mark based on one of Hugh's skilful and amusing cartoons brings us back closer to home and our familiar environ, to Buckler's Hard.

"When I was a boy my family used to take the annual summer holiday in a chalet on the cliffs of Whitsand Bay in Cornwall. One day my father told us that a famous yachtsman who had just sailed all the way around the world was coming home. I remember being handed his heavy binoculars to view the huge fleet surrounding his boat as he slowly crossed the bay from west to east, then around Rame Head and into Plymouth. Then I remember the television news of him being knighted by the Queen at Greenwich. The sword was the one used by Queen Elizabeth the First to knight Francis Drake, now that really is history.

From one Sir Francis to another - and over to Buckler's Hard 

The famous yachtsman was of course Sir Francis Chichester and his epic voyage started and ended at Buckler’s Hard. I have stayed at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club marina at Gin’s Farm a few times and I think it’s a delightful place. I can understand why Sir Francis made Buckler’s Hard his home port. The far-reaching marshes with the almost unbroken sound track of warblers chattering away as they perch safely in the depths of the reeds are restful to the soul. Many marinas are busy places full of activity. Not this one.

Our naval power and our hunger for oak

In a previous article we spoke of graffiti and the fact that some of our Forest trees are defaced with simple messages of undying love. Others are marked with the Royal broad arrow signifying that the tree was destined for shipbuilding. In Nelson’s time these slow growing oaks were being harvested at an alarming rate, far faster than they could replenish naturally.

Alternatives were tried, non-native trees for instance, but what saved the oaks from further depletion was iron. This new ship building material saved the oaks of the New Forest. A great many ships were built at Buckler’s Hard including Nelson’s favourite, HMS Agamemnon. Sailors, bored with the trend for unpronounceable historic names, invented their own. The Agamemnon became ‘ham and eggs’.

When you visit Buckler’s Hard, please stop awhile at the top of the gentle slope that ends at the river. Take in the cottages at either side and then, at the base of the slope, the river into which was launched some of England’s most fearsome warships. As someone who used to sail small yachts, I have stood and stared with incredulity from the top of the hard, to me the idea of launching and then manoeuvring a massive ninety-gun ship in such a small area is hard to imagine. This ship was 170 feet long and 44 feet wide. Those ancient mariners must have had a great deal of skill to have achieved so much with just oars. After all, there are more bends in the river than the average anaconda. Sailing out would be an utter impossibility so it could only have been human power that did the job.

If you like a walk then you really ought to try this one

There is a riverside walk that takes you all the way down the west bank of the Beaulieu River from the village itself to Buckler’s Hard. On the way you will pass Bailey’s Hard which is where the old brick works used to be, the kiln is still there. (See previous article, Home sweet home - see link below.) The walk is a delight and there can be few sights more relaxing than that of small boats on swinging moorings in sheltered waters. I wonder if much has changed here? Would a sailor of Nelson’s time see a great deal of difference between now and then?  Most trees grow and die in a short time and as such the vegetation might have changed but then, oak trees last a very long time, yew even longer. But the hills, the curve of the river, the marshes, I doubt much has changed in the last three hundred years.

Port. A safe haven for mariners

In order to understand exactly how important any port is, let alone Buckler’s Hard, you need to listen to two stories.

The first is from a work colleague. He was offered a free trip on a yacht from Cherbourg to Southampton. The owner wanted crew as it was a long trip so my friend packed an overnight bag, kissed his wife goodbye and duly took the ferry over. So far so good. When they left France, the weather was ‘a bit blowy’. During the crossing the wind strengthened and, proportionally, my friend’s seasickness worsened. Sent down below to his bunk he curled into a miserable ball and pulled blankets over himself as he willed the nightmare to end. He actually said to me as we sat in the office all those years later that if someone had handed him a pistol, he would have shot himself. I laughed and told him not to exaggerate. His face darkened, he was utterly serious, yes it was really had been so bad that he would have ended his life there and then. I was shocked.

The second story concerns our very own cartoonist Hugh who as a young boy with his mother and younger brother were on board a troop ship on a passage to Egypt. He tells me that when they were crossing the Bay of Biscay the weather was so bad and the movement of the ship so awful that he actually prayed to God to end his life. Again, a shocking thing to hear.

This is what a port, a safe haven, is all about. It’s about safety, shelter and succour. A port represents more than a place to tie the old girl up or to paint her with anti-foul. A port can mean the difference between life and death. Ports are important, regardless of size.

Imagine the joy that Sir Francis Chichester felt when he entered the calm waters of the Beaulieu River all those years ago. Enjoy the tranquility.

Submarine at Beaulieu

More tales and cartoons from Mark and Hugh

If you enjoy these skilfully told tales and cartoons and you don't already receive our Weekly What's On e-newsletter to receive each week's as it's published - sign up here! 

 
 
 

Meanwhile if you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

Wight Divers

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight

Underwater archaeology with historical New Forest detectives beneath the waves 

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400

"This may sound incredible but just eight thousand years ago there was no Solent and there was no English Channel. Both were as dry as the mid-summer New Forest heathland. If you wanted to pop across to Calais for some cheap wine and fags you could grab a rucksack, pull on your best boots and walk there. If the local shop in Lymington was out of milk then all you had to do was stroll over to the shop in Yarmouth. At that time, England, the Isle of Wight (then just a chalk outcrop) and Europe were as one.

When I was a sailing chap, my boat was moored at Ocean Village which happens to be the base for the Royal Southampton Yacht Club. Friends, who are members, invited us there one evening to hear a talk given by the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology, a charity now known as the Marine Archaeology Trust or MAT. It was fascinating and informative. Did you know that there are fossilised trees in the Solent? Did you know about the submerged village twelve metres beneath the surface at Bouldnor Cliff? This Atlantis of Hampshire is situated just to the east of Yarmouth. Fishermen working the western Solent have reported finding flint tools in their dredges since the sixties but only relatively recently have experts started to catalogue finds.

Lobsters, surprisingly useful to an archaeologist.

Bouldnor was discovered because a sharp-eyed diver happened to notice that a burrowing lobster was ejecting pieces of flint from its tiny excavation. On closer investigation these pieces were found to be tools, a sure sign of human occupation. To date, divers have found all manner of objects from the past including worked timbers suggesting large buildings or perhaps boats. The Trust believes that the main reason we know so little about this period, the Mesolithic, is because most of the sites are now underwater.

The Mary Rose, a world-famous wreck just a short drive away

Now we take a short trip from the Western Solent to the mouth of Portsmouth harbour.

The wreck of the Mary Rose was discovered in the Solent outside Portsmouth in just twelve metres of water. As a result of the sheer determination and persistence of just one man, the late Alexander McKee, the wreck was eventually raised and thousands of artefacts were recovered. Initially he fought the tides, he struggled with officialdom and a lack of faith from almost all he tried to involve. In the very beginning he wasn’t even allowed to put a buoy on the site. Each time he re-visited the wreck at slack water he had to use careful navigation to be sure of his position. Fortunately, Prince Charles became involved with the project and the rest is history. In my opinion the brand-new Mary Rose museum is an utter treat well worth a visit. The care and commitment that has been put into the display of the various exhibits is a testament to first class marine archaeology. You’re probably aware of the dozens of bows and arrows that were found but did you know about the backgammon set? Did you know about the incredibly intricate combs that the sailors used to combat lice? How these combs were created using hand tools is beyond me.

Global Warming, this time, the real deal and certainly not due to our industrial activity.

Most of northern Europe was once covered with an ice cap and when this melted, water levels rose. We’re not talking about today’s random estimates of a foot or two. No, this was real warming. We are talking about the creation of the English Channel and our Isle of Wight. (The creation of seas, for which, all ferry companies ought to be extremely grateful). In terms of time, let’s look at how recent these events really were. The Mary Rose foundered just five hundred years ago. Stonehenge was created three thousand years ago. The Mesolithic village at Bouldnor? Eight thousand years ago. In terms of the age of our globe these events are very recent indeed. In the eighties we were told that due to man-made global warming the Maldives would end up underwater, submerged, disappeared. As far as I am aware these pretty islands still exist and scare stories of this nature are divisive and unhelpful. Perhaps we ought to look at the massive climate changes that have occurred in the recent past and compare them to what is happening today. I’m not sure that things are really that bad, are you? I wonder what today’s febrile media would make of the frost fair that took place on the Thames just two-hundred years ago?

The Needles. A world-famous landmark, and hazard.

Should you take the ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth, take a look to the west where you will easily see the Needles. Just beyond the lighthouse is the wreck of the Varvassi. At low tides parts of her are still visible and a hazard to those who choose to sail too close. She was carrying a cargo of wine, much of which ended up on the shore. The year 1947 must have been a good year for wine loving beachcombers. MAT has found other wrecks which they survey meticulously, fighting the ravages of time and tide in order to record what evidence remains while there is still time to do so.

The work of these dedicated people, many of whom are volunteers, gives us all a peep into the past, a hint of what life must have been like for people who lived in a world without electricity, running water or Tesco. In the case of a wreck, we can only imagine the terror of the poor sailors as their home crunched and splintered on the rocks before sinking. If you want to get some idea of how dangerous these waters can be just look on-line where you can see the wrecks in our area. There are many.

But in the meantime, enjoy the fruits of the labours of some extremely skilled and dedicated divers who have carefully recorded some of our underwater past and indeed continue to do so."

Underwater archaeologists by Hugh Lohan

More tales and cartoons from Mark and Hugh

If you enjoy these skilfully told tales and cartoons and you don't already receive our Weekly What's On e-newsletter to receive each week's as it's published - sign up here! 

 
 
 
Meanwhile if you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

Bucklers Hard
Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

Joy of sheds

The joy of sheds; thanks to Beaulieu Motor Museum New Forest

The joy of New Forest and other sheds

Also at the heart of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, whatever Jeremy Clarkson thinks!

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400

This week's instalment from our intrepid duo, writer and crafter Mark and cartoon magician Hugh!

"The Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has always been known to be a harsh critic of what he refers to as ‘shed engineering’. This is his favourite pejorative term for low volume manufacture which he seems to detest. His ideal would be a shiny factory with painted floors and an imposing marble floored reception dotted with wasp-waisted secretaries. I don’t think I need to tell you that major manufacturing facilities don’t magically appear with the wave of the engineering fairy’s wand. As the ancient Chinese proverb states, ‘Even the longest journey starts with just one step.’, and so it is for engineering.

Soichiro Honda left school at fifteen and became an apprentice at a garage where he repaired and serviced cars. After six years he returned to the family home and began to make motorcycles in a wooden shack on the property. Are you by any chance familiar with the name Honda? William Morris started out making bicycles until he decided to build his own car, the Morris Bullnose. Realising that he didn’t quite have the facilities to create a car from scratch he used existing parts from other manufacturers. Once he had a financial toe-hold, he pressed on and eventually became a major manufacturer in his own right. There are countless major brands that started with the vision and expertise of one individual. An individual that often started out with just a shed.

Part of the Battle of Britain, just eight-hundred metres away.

Close to my home is a small workshop which houses the most incredible machines and it is run by just one man. These machines are computer controlled, work night and day if required, and produce parts to the exact specifications without so much as a coffee break. This particular workshop is a little larger than a shed, but not much. I’m friendly with the proprietor and the other day I needed two small parts made from brass. He said he could do them within the week but they were ready the following day. Out of curiosity I asked about some tiny parts, smaller than a broad bean, that were on his desk.

“Oh, they’re pawls for the release mechanism for the guns fitted to a Spitfire. There are a couple being restored not far from here.”

Entranced, I turned the tiny part over in my fingers, fascinated by the complexity. He told me how the various warplane restoration groups, who work for wealthy individuals, tend to help one another. After all, Spitfire parts tend to be tricky to source. When one of the restoration groups discovered his tiny workshop and his high-quality work, word spread fast. Now he is talking to aircraft restoration engineers across the country helping them to painstakingly rebuild these historic aircraft to the highest specifications. This isn’t a job, it’s a privilege.

A tidy desk is the sign of a sick mind

Most small workshops seem to be slightly scruffy and a little down at heel. It seems to be the way engineers prefer things. But not Jeremy Clarkson. A long time ago I was pursuing a patent for a new engineering idea. I needed expertise way beyond my abilities and so I took myself for a walk to Riverside Park where there is an elevated model railway. Model railway engineers are talented and multiskilled individuals who build, from scratch, the most handsome miniature steam engines. After asking around I was given an address and soon I was knocking on the door of a very normal semi-detached house in Bitterne Triangle. His wife seemed entirely at ease at the arrival of a strange visitor wearing a serious expression and clutching engineering drawings. I was taken down the hall, through the kitchen and down to the shed where I was introduced. He shook my hand, sat me down and we began to talk. Whilst he studied my drawings, I had time to take it all in.

The shed seemed to have morphed from what was once a simple space into a multi compartmented one. There were all kinds of machines shoehorned into the tightest spots beneath the low ceiling. I saw many wooden drawered cabinets with tiny labels grubby from a thousand thumbprints with faded handwriting describing the contents, drills, taps, reamers and much more. The floor, which was concrete, had been impregnated with a hard and shiny layer of compacted oil and metal filings; there was a politically incorrect calendar on the wall. The smell was simply that of a workshop, predominantly oil.

Once he had finished, he said,

“I can do it, but not for a month. You see it’s the start of the Formula 1 practice season.”

There was a pause as my chin gently touched the floor.

“Yep”, he continued with a smile as he continued to look at my hand drawn designs, “they’re good for business and because they’re such a novice team they keep breaking things! They need their replacement parts right away, if not sooner.”

There I was, a naïve young man with a dream, and I was talking to someone who was an integral part of the top flight of motorsport, in a shed, in Bitterne Triangle, in Southampton. Incredible! But not as incredible as the fact that because he couldn’t help me right away, he directed me to another, equally well-equipped shed just one mile away.

The heart and soul of Britain’s engineering heritage

These small outfits are the backbone of British engineering. Our tiny workshops are utterly indispensable as larger concerns are only interested in high volume, low profit orders. It is a fact that seven out of the ten F1 teams are based in this country. We are fortunate enough to enjoy such a wealth of engineering excellence that this tiny island of ours is often the first port of call for top motorsport teams. Perhaps the next time you are watching F1 cars on the box, or if you are really lucky, live, consider the origins of some of the parts. There’s a chance that they might have been created not far away.

Shed engineering Jeremy? British excellence, actually."

A shed at Beaulieu Motor Museum as basis for Hugh Lohan cartoon

Thanks to the Beaulieu Estate and National Motor Museum for the use of the wonderful workshop.

More tales and cartoons from Mark and Hugh

If you enjoy these skilfully told tales and cartoons and you don't already receive our Weekly What's On e-newsletter to receive each week's as it's published - sign up here! 

 
 
 
Meanwhile if you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

Monotony in Dutch Lockdown

Cordless home entertainment in the New Forest

Home entertainment of the cordless kind 

Caring concern for the computer gamers of the New Forest 

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400

The latest chapter from writer and crafter Mark and cartoon magician Hugh. Grandparents especially will potentially smile particularly. 

"Some of my warmest memories revolve around the time that my family, just returned from a four-year stint in Mauritius, lodged with my father’s parents in a tiny council house in Plymouth. My grandfather, Sydney, was a welder who worked in Plymouth Dockyard, a career spent amongst toxic fumes and abrasive dust that would end his days prematurely. My grandmother, Jessie, was in the old-fashioned way, a housewife; I remember her horribly twisted fingers, deformed by years of wringing out washing by hand. We were there in 1966, the year that England won the football World Cup. Coal fires were commonplace and even today the slightest whiff of coal smoke takes me back to those grim but happy times.

I wonder what will be the touchstone that rekindles our memories of these Covid times? The sight of a mask perhaps? The cold sensation and alcohol odour of antibacterial hand wash? I personally feel that we have all enjoyed an increased sense of community and sense of caring for others. Certainly, our little neighbourhood has been brought together. I wonder if the virus has ‘re-set’ our values and priorities? Perhaps the mind-numbing media repetition and parliamentary confusion has turned us away from the television and towards our neighbours? It would appear that the combination of lock down and furlough has, in a strange way, brought us closer together.

In the evenings it was often the case that the black and white television was switched off and the grubby, dog-eared playing cards came out of the drawer. They were so greasy and sticky that shuffling them was a trial. We used to bet using pennies, strictly speaking this was underage betting but it was all innocent enough. Also, we would play dominoes which I seem to remember was an easy game to play but a difficult game to win, especially against experts like Sydney and Jessie. Today I have forgotten those games which I find a great pity. You see, I can still remember the restful silence as, with the clock ticking and the coal fire glowing, we pondered our choices. Today, home entertainment is almost always televisual and is generally accompanied by a speaker system that could deafen a county. Whatever happened to thought?

Children, easily fooled by wily Grandparents

My grandparents had a little game, the secret of which was kept from us for many years. Sydney would arrange random objects on a table, a pepper pot, a mug, that sort of thing and then he was asked to leave the room. We always checked to make sure he couldn’t peep. One of us would reverently touch one of the objects and then the drama would begin. We children hardly dared to breathe as Sydney came back into the room and, Svengali like, slowly wafted a spoon over each object in turn. The tension for us children was exquisite. The boredom for our parents, who were fully aware of the gig, extreme. As the spoon passed over the chosen object, Jessie would give the tiniest cough or sniff. Naturally, Sidney would make several more passes with the spoon as he waited for ‘the vibrations’ but eventually he would tap the correct object. Time and again, we were amazed at his incredible psychic gift.

A friend once told me that her father had a secret trick which he would play every Christmas without fail. As they were eating the Christmas pudding, he would carefully reach into his pocket to retrieve a tightly folded ten-pound note. Then with the note pinched between finger and thumb he would reach into his mouth and exclaim to the family that he had found it again! To compound the agony, he would slowly unfold the note in front of the gullible children. The secret was kept for many years.

There is an ever-increasing array of electronic entertainment and information available to all of us and, seemingly, on every subject. However, there are simpler pleasures to be had of the unplugged variety. It’s down to us to gently guide the younger generation away from the mindless stuff and towards the thoughtful stuff. Not an easy task, but one that I know you are capable of.

The smartphone, an incredible two-edged sword

They do say that good parents lead by example. Imagine you are a grandparent at a family dinner, perhaps a celebratory gathering. Would you ever dream of ignoring everyone as you studied your smart phone? I think you’ll agree that good parents, and grandparents, help to foster good conversation by intervening when there is poor behaviour. The addictive nature of smartphones is well documented. Apparently, youngsters check their phones for messages roughly every fifteen seconds. Perhaps if parents and grandparents were to make a stand against this kind of behaviour the result might well be interesting and engaging conversation. After all, we’re only talking about good manners.

Who remembers the term ‘Party Piece’?

My father told me that back in his day everyone had their party piece. This is because without modern home entertainment you simply made your own. The alternative would have been to stare at one another like so many cows in a field. Many could sing and had memorised whole songs with the audience joining in for the chorus. Some, like Sydney, had learned tricks of various kinds. Essentially everyone was expected to bring something to the party. Those who could play the piano were especially in demand. As you can imagine, those who were supremely talented often ended up on the stage but the level of expertise at domestic level was more than enough for an enjoyable Saturday evening with friends.

I suspect that these days if there was a power failure the majority would be utterly stumped, incapable of entertaining themselves or others. How sad.

I don’t mean to criticise modern computer games but….

As a lad I enjoyed darts. On the face of it this is the simplest of games You simply stand at a line and throw pointy things at a wall, hardly Mastermind. But there’s a catch, and that is of course, maths. If you want to learn multiplication, division, addition and subtraction, play darts. If you think that a maths examination is arduous then try to ‘chalk’ in front of a group of seasoned players. Any errors will be spotted immediately and roundly mocked. Generally, darts is a quiet game in that when a player is throwing others tend not to chatter. As for simplicity? Imagine you have 104 left. An expert player will tell you, in no more than a moment, that you could try a single nineteen then a treble seventeen in order to finish on double seventeen. Did you manage to work that out? When I was a player my mental arithmetic was superb, why not buy a board and watch as your children and grandchildren prosper while laughing.

Scrabble, the perfect game for resting the ears and expanding the mind. We all know that there are fanatics. Those who spend hours memorising words arcane and obscure in order to use up those last tiles to win the game. The rest of us stumble along, considering it a minor miracle when we achieve a three-letter word. In my circle of friends, a six-letter word earns a round of applause! (Then afterwards the inevitable, simmering, silent envy). There is maths to be found here as well. Far simpler than darts but maths all the same, our eyes are drawn to the triple word squares as we yearn for just one precious vowel. We hope that somewhere, in some language there is the word xydeliv, (there isn’t).

Personally, I worry for the computer gamers of today. I see more and more basic errors in maths and English. The gamers of today could probably count the number of blisters on their fingers and thumbs, but without a calculator? Not much else. If you are under the age of twenty and reading this, why not try one of the pursuits above? Let a little silence into your life. Rest the ears, stimulate the little grey cells.

 Dutch Lockdown Monotony

 Image supplied by Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. With acknowledgement to Johannes Stroebel’s ‘Syndics of the Leiden Saalhal’ 1866

More tales and cartoons from Mark and Hugh

If you enjoy these skilfully told tales and cartoons and you don't already receive our Weekly What's On e-newsletter to receive each week's as it's published - sign up here! 

 
 
 
Meanwhile if you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

The joy of sheds
When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

cartoon travel agent not internet

Equality in the skies and WWI New Forest airfield local history

Equality in the skies and the story of Amelia Earhart 

Including New Forest tales of Derring Do

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400

For the Bank Holiday Weeked writer and crafter Mark and cartoon magician Hugh cover one of our favourite subjects: the amazing and little known role played by women in the history of aviation. 

Equality in the skies; must we be male born to be air borne?

There is a long and sad history of prejudice against women. I’m sure that this baffles you as much as it baffles me.

 I’m painfully aware that, as a young and immature boy, I misbehaved in school. I failed to achieve anything close to my potential and ended up at just a technical level. I must be blind in terms of human origin because, to me, a person is simply a person. Their gender or country of origin is irrelevant. What really matters to me is what’s beneath the skin and between the ears. In my previous technical role when I needed guidance from an engineer, I didn’t care a jot whether the person sat opposite was male or female. The person I was facing had passed many examinations and, ultimately, through perseverance and hard work, become an engineer and I respected that enormously.

Unfortunately, a great deal of blame for any kind of prejudice must be laid at the feet of parents. Children are largely a product of them and are easily influenced. Ignorant ideas implanted at a young age can take some time to be erased.

The history of flight has been overwhelmingly dominated by men but, just occasionally, we have enjoyed learning about the bravery of some very special women indeed. The word bravery is valid here because at the time of early aviation flyers learned by their mistakes which were often fatal. For those of you that know a little about the WW1 airfield at East Boldre it should come as no surprise that the vast majority of Royal Flying Corps pilots killed were those learning to fly over our Forest; not those flying in action over trenches in Northern France. These pioneers were brave, death was a very real possibility. Think of that when you next board a modern passenger jet. In the thirties, pilots flirted with death at every flight. Today, flight is just a commute, an airborne taxi. In the thirties we had genuine heroes, flyers fully aware that the next flight could be their last, flyers that went back for more time and again. Today we hear of certain sportsmen described as heroes. Seriously? I know what my vision of a hero is and he or she won’t be kicking a bag of wind around a pitch.

Amelia Earhart

Probably the most well-known female pilot is Amelia Earhart who was born in Kansas. She became infected with what was the Covid of its day. In 1918 she was working as a nurse in a Spanish Flu ward when, unsurprisingly, she contracted the virus. After two months, she was in the clear but the virus had badly affected her sinuses which, with antibiotics still in their infancy, required painful and initially ineffective surgery.

Her fame began when, in 1928 she was invited to crew on a trip across the Atlantic, the other two participants were a pilot and an engineer/co-pilot. Earhart was not trained to fly using instruments and, as the majority of the trip was completed under instrument flying rules, all Amelia did was fill in the flight log. When she was interviewed about the flight afterwards, she referred to herself as ‘just a sack of potatoes’ adding prophetically that she ‘might try it solo in the future’. Oh, did she ever.

An airborne suffragette

Her return from the 1928 flight was greeted with a ticker-tape parade, suddenly she was famous. Amelia was a strong promoter of women’s rights and she used her fame to attack anything to the contrary. After her joint trans-Atlantic flight, she set about making her own flying reputation and she began to get involved with air racing. When she heard that the organisers of the 1934 Bendex Trophy race had banned women competitors, she openly refused to fly the world-famous screen actress Mary Pickford to the event. On marrying George Putman, she wouldn’t follow the norm in taking his name and sometimes even referred to him as Mr Earhart. Today this is accepted but back then it was rather shocking. She insisted that each of them shared the household duties. What she was actually insisting on was that the husband did his fair share, no bad thing.

Worldwide fame, and deservedly so

In 1932 at the age of 34 Amelia took off from Newfoundland and headed for Paris. After a fifteen-hour solo flight she landed in a field in Northern Ireland. An inquisitive farm hand asked if she had come far and she replied, America. What a woman. What determination and bravery. Being the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo she was showered with awards and quickly developed friends in high places, all the way up to the White House in fact. We can be sure that her attitude regarding women’s rights were heard by some rather senior people, certainly Eleanor Roosevelt. The success of her cross-channel flight led on to more record breaking flights, further racing, including competing in the 1935 Bendex Trophy (how quickly they changed their minds about women) and the setting of many distance records. Then Amelia decided to go for something really big. She wanted to fly around the world. Sadly, during the attempt, her life was taken from her somewhere over Pacific Ocean and despite a huge search operation, no trace was found. The world was a poorer place without her.

The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). Equal pay for women and in some ways, for a tougher job.

During WW2 the ATA was formed in order to move finished aircraft from the factory to active squadrons and also to carry out air ambulance work. The women flyers were enormously popular in the public eye and were, incredibly for the time, paid the same as men. Incidentally, at the same time, US female pilots were being paid as little as 65% of the male rates.

I’m sure that at some time or other you have jumped into a strange car, struggled with unfamiliar controls and generally taken a while to familiarise yourself. These young women jumped into unfamiliar aircraft! One flight might be a light, nimble, single engine Spitfire, the next a four-engine lumbering giant of a Lancaster! Naturally the women received thorough training before qualifying on each aircraft. There was no rigid schedule, they were allowed to learn at their own pace However there was risk, fifteen young women died during these delivery trips.

One pilot, Helen Kerly, was awarded a commendation for successfully delivering a Spitfire which had developed technical difficulties during the trip. Jackie Cochrane was an American ATA pilot who started the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots organisation or WASP which controlled over a thousand women who carried out the same duties as the ATA but in the US.

It has been said many times that ‘Any fool can go on doing what’s been done before, but it takes real guts and determination to do something different.’

Women that ‘did something different’ improved the rights of women across the globe. We still have a long way to go but the early aviators showed men that women are every bit as equal and often better. If you’re in any doubt take a look at the roll call of women who have travelled into space, Helen Sharman for example who was born in Sheffield and went to a comprehensive school. There are some who, tragically, have paid the ultimate sacrifice for space exploration but the example of women aviators and astronauts has given inspiration to many others. Others who now look at the idea of flight and of space exploration as a real possibility. Sixty years ago, these ideas would have been seen as fantasy.

Way to go ladies!

 Busy bees cartoon

More tales and cartoons from Mark and Hugh

If you enjoy these skilfully told tales and cartoons and you don't already receive our Weekly What's On e-newsletter to receive each week's as it's published - sign up here! 

 
 
 
Meanwhile if you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

leaning tower cartoon

The New Forest's debt to the persistence of Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi. A pioneer of communication.

The New Forest owes a great deal to his brilliance - and his persistence!

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400

Moving on from pioneers in aviation last week to communications this, clever writer and cartoonist duo Mark and Hugh take us on an entertaining tour featuring the brilliant Mr Marconi who in his many significant and historic achievements also proved that persistence pays - which can be applicable to us all!  Read on and enjoy!

"These days we take it for granted that we can phone anybody, anywhere, at any time; well almost.

The pinpoint accuracy of global positioning systems mean that air and sea transport is now almost completely dependent on the precise calculation of radio signals sent between satellites and the user. My wife and I recently went on a cruise. During dinner I spoke to the captain about navigation old and new. He told me that only a minority of shipping lines carried paper charts. The rest? Just a memory card. These electronic charts combined with the wonder that is radio waves mean that navigation is no longer a job for sextant, binoculars or compass.

This radio wave revolution started with a determined young Italian called Guglielmo Marconi.

Remember semaphore? Me neither.

The desire to communicate has always been with us but prior to Marconi the methods at our disposal were often rather primitive. Just down the road from where I used to live in West End, Southampton, is a feature called Beacon Hill. Back in the sixteenth century if an invading enemy was spotted coming across the channel, beacons would be lit in sequence from the south coast to London. This was the early warning system of the time. Many of us remember the two cocoa tins and the piece of string from our childhood. But what about smoke signals or perhaps the flags of the Royal Navy, once famously ignored by Nelson.

There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory. Francis Drake.

The telephone came into being in 1876, two years before the birth of Marconi and just ten years before Mr Benz gave the world its first motor car. The Wright brothers achieved powered flight in 1903. These were heady times for inventors. Marconi wasn’t the first to discover the basic principles of radio communication. Others had managed this up to fifty years previously, but what Marconi did, as the great Admiral once said, was to continue unto the end. Inventors back then were often people of independent means. Perhaps you can imagine that after a twelve-hour shift in a factory your brain might not be terribly fertile. Or functioning. However, amongst the privileged elite Marconi was a cut above the average inventor. He was determined and, step by step, made his way towards the mastery of wireless communication. His first transmission was made at the age of twenty-one when, at his father’s estate in Italy, he managed to communicate wirelessly over a distance of one and a half miles. For this particular young man this was just the beginning. He wrote to the Italian Government explaining what he had achieved and asked for funding; they treated him as if he were a lunatic. Luckily for him (and us) our Civil Service, with foresight, recognised a good thing when they saw one. Which country do you think agreed to fund further research by this talented young man? England!

I have nothing to declare but my genius. Oscar Wilde replying to a US customs agent.

In addition to the well-known ‘death and taxes’ aphorism we should add ‘customs and revenue’. Marconi was stopped at Dover and his equipment examined in detail. Immediately afterwards the customs officer contacted the Admiralty. Following this the senior electrical engineer for the Post Office, a William Preece, came down from London and stayed in close contact with Marconi. This attention was either driven by plain good manners or, perhaps the fact that this twenty-one-year-old man was on the brink of something big and our government wanted to be there when it happened. Marconi experimented a great deal in the UK gradually increasing the distance of his transmissions. One of the sites he used for his experiments was The Haven Hotel at Sandbanks, Poole. It’s still there, just around the corner from the chain ferry, though the enormous aerial is long gone.

Just two years after his arrival in England the British Lightship Service authorised the use of radio between the South Foreland lighthouse and the East Goodwin lightship. One year later in 1899 the first ever SOS to be sent by radio was used to summon the Ramsgate lifeboat to aid the stricken vessel Elbe which had run aground on Goodwin sands. This young Italian was already beginning to make a difference.

Persistence. The difference between a pass and a fail.

A while back I decided to attend evening classes for a technical qualification which would help me to gain promotion at work. That was fun, working a ten-hour day, getting home to help my wife with the twins, grab some supper and then dash out again for a further two hours of concentration.

For the first of the two-part course I revised every night and I passed with distinction. For the second part I didn’t revise and managed an ordinary pass. Persistence wins every time. Marconi persisted in his many experiments achieving incremental improvements as he went. Competitors could only rue their lack of industry and invention as the young Italian forged ahead. The name Marconi became inextricably linked with radio much in the same way that the name Hoover would forever be associated with the vacuum cleaner.

Many of his experiments were carried out in our area as his main focus was on communication with ships. On the Needles there is a plinth which marks the spot where Marconi erected a 168-foot-high mast. He used this to communicate with two Lymington based paddle steamers which he chartered for the project. The steamers made their way between Swanage Pier, Bournemouth Pier and Alum Pier. He made notes as the experiments went along and, above all, he persisted. He also communicated with the Royal Yacht and Osborne house. I can just imagine the reply.

“Have you transmitted far?”

Read more about Marconi and his experiments involving the Lymington-Yarmouth ferries here!

A Titanic endorsement.

The tragic story of the Titanic disaster is a lesson to us all. The ‘unsinkable’ ship was sadly no match for nature in the form of a huge iceberg. During the inquiry into the massive loss of life the owners were asked why there were insufficient lifeboats for the number of passengers on board. The response was simply that under present Board of Trade regulations they weren’t obliged to provide them. Thank goodness the rules have been changed for the good. Marconi’s company had installed a wireless station with two radio operators onboard the Titanic. Marconi himself had been offered a free passage to the US on board the vessel but had turned it down in favour of a trip onboard the Lusitania. What luck.

During the period between when the Titanic struck the iceberg and when she sank, the radio operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride transmitted distress signals constantly. They stopped when they no longer had power. Their calls reached the SS Carpathia which immediately steamed south for two hours in order to reach the disaster site. After rescuing seven hundred people and recovering three hundred bodies from the water, she set course for New York.

Good news spreads fast but bad news spreads faster.

The media frenzy at the arrival of the Carpathia in New York was intense. At the time print was king, newspaper publishers were very powerful individuals with a lot of money available for the right story. Journalists, aboard a great number of chartered tugboats that crowded the harbour, shouted through megaphones at passengers aboard the Carpathia. They were offering between fifty and one-hundred dollars for an eye witness account, at the time the average weekly wage was just sixty dollars. Harold Bride was one of the survivors and as he approached New York aboard the Carpathia the wily Marconi sent a radio message to him saying that regarding the media he should hold out for a four-figure dollar sum.

To the victor, the spoils.

During the inquiry into the Titanic disaster Britain’s postmaster general stated that Marconi and his marvellous invention had saved many lives.

Thanks to Guglielmo Marconi, Britain entered WW1 with radio communications equipment far superior to that of the German forces. He died at sixty-one after his ninth heart attack but his memory lives on each time we speak wirelessly.

 leaning tower cartoon

More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you enjoy these skilfully told tales and cartoons and you don't already receive our Weekly What's On e-newsletter to receive each week's as it's published - sign up here! 

 
 
 
Meanwhile, if you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence
 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

stagecoach in Lymington cartoon

A journey from the New Forest to London - via Lymington

A journey from the New Forest to London without fumes

And an observational look at Lymington's past, from a different perspective

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400

The latest instalment by our by now well known in the New Forest writer and cartoonist duo Mark and Hugh takes us once again back in time but in a different direction this week, with more than a little play on words as well as on the stage...

A journey to London, without car fumes

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington. Noel Coward.

Imagine that you are a young French student keen to master the English tongue and you are told that the word stage meant not only treading the boards but also a coach and horses. In fact, the student would be more familiar with the French word 'stagiaire' which means learner or student, learning in stages.

Here we speak of a forgotten world. One of ostlers, farriers, saddle makers, blacksmiths, stable boys and stables. There were once thousands employed across the country, all in gainful employment because of the prime mover of the day; the horse. These buildings, trades and people still exist today but in a much lesser sense. Today horses are almost always used for leisure, not commerce. Before the invention of the railroad and then afterwards, the motor car, there were only two ways to get from A to B which was by horsepower, or, the power of a horse if you could afford it. By foot, if you couldn’t.

It’s speed, but not as we know it

The average person walks at around three miles per hour, a gentleman walking home after an evening with friends might be, ahem, a little slower.  Lymington to London is around ninety-eight miles. By car, a journey of two and a half hours, give or take. By foot, thirty-three hours! Walking for eight hours a day this means that you have a gruelling four-day trip ahead of you. Imagine that. It makes you wonder how Poldark did it when he seemingly hopped onto a steed and, almost magically, re-appeared in London. The wonder of television.

Travelling by coach, drawn by four horses, you could expect to achieve a speed of around six miles per hour. That’s just forty-eight miles in a day. Remember that ‘roads’ of the time were nothing at all like those of today in that they were rutted, muddy, slippery and there were often boulders to contend with. No wonder that advances in suspension were keenly followed. Imagine being stuck in that little box in close proximity to your fellow passengers both inside, and, perched on the roof above, with the whole contraption swaying and bucking. I read an account of a trip where the going was so rough and the speed of the coach so slow that the passengers were briefly allowed to walk alongside. The author described this short period as ‘an utter relief’. Perhaps consider this the next time you are driving on a billiard table smooth tarmac road at the rate of over a mile a minute.

The term stage is simple enough, it means that exhausted horses were changed at suitable intervals, or stages, of ten to fifteen miles. Very often this change was carried out at an inn where passengers, who were similarly in need of rest, could eat and stay the night.

Raise your eyes to heaven

Lymington High Street is fascinating. If, for a moment, you stop awhile and rest your back against a cool brick wall, look around you. Not at street level where you find the ubiquitous WH Smiths and Boots, raise your gaze. Take in the various architectural styles that have evolved over the years. If you do the same in Southampton, heavily bombed by the Nazis in WW2, you might not be quite so pleased, there is concrete ugliness everywhere. Plymouth was similarly blasted to bits and the buildings that were erected in my home town after the war are, almost universally, as ugly as sin. Lymington by comparison is beautifully detailed. Some bricks are laid with the familiar wide gaps of modern mortar and others with the much thinner, more elegant and pleasing gaps of lime mortar. It’s all there, you just have to look.

Mews. Odd word, odd origin.

A further task for you and this is all about awareness. Stop once more and carefully study the street level, but not in detail; just look for those huge square gaps in-between some of the shops. The type that could easily swallow a coach and horses. Instead of walking past one of these coaching entrances why not take a stroll inside? After all, there are invariably shops there to enjoy. When you enter the mews take a moment to study the fabric of the buildings. Look for the ill-fitting bricks filling the space once occupied by a door; the clue is in the arched brick lintel. Study at leisure the missing, bricked up, windows on the first floor. Today’s planning zealots would have raged at such liberty and insisted that these outdated buildings should be preserved in aspic. Back then the goals were progress and prosperity, not posterity. There are many of these coaching entrances and they range from the bottom of the hill all the way up to the Kings Arms. At one time Lymington was a very busy transportation hub providing employment for many. Just imagine how busy it might have been.

The word mews was coined around five-hundred years ago and these buildings ranged around an off-street courtyard were used to accommodate horses. Mews were the motorway services of yesteryear; minus the amusement arcades, one-armed bandits. Look carefully and you will spot the yawning mouths of the coach entrances, incongruous against the space-hungry high street where every inch of shop frontage is utilised. Here, four-wheeled coaches drawn by four horses would arrive and leave on a regular basis for various destinations. The driving force for all of this, the horses, the coaches, the ostlers, the stable boys, everything, was all driven by our desire to explore, to go further or perhaps arrive in a different fashion. In fact, this was all about our innate curiosity.

Progress, painful for some

The huge changes in transportation have wrought destruction upon various livelihoods. In the day of the horse-drawn cart, operating on rough potholed roads, a cargo of fine china could really suffer. Then came the canals with, initially, the horse to pull the eighteen ton or more loads. Here the china would survive and so too did the horse, for a while. But then came the death knell, the railway. By the middle of the nineteenth century, it was all over; the stagecoach business was finished. Rail ruled the roost, for the time being. But we all know what came next and we all know what became of many local rail lines.

Working horses have never quite since regained their popularity. Nowadays, instead of sweeping up the waste from a horse and putting it on our rose beds or vegetables, we breathe in various concentrations of oxides of nitrogen and oxides of sulphur from passing vehicles. Progress eh?

In the same way that the railway finished the horse, the electric motor may finish the piston engine. Pollution in cities has to stop because it is killing people. It’s a pity we don’t use horses today, the roses would certainly appreciate it, but the problem is that we’ve rather got used to the convenience of modern cars.

The evidence of the past is there for all to see, it just takes a moment to pause and think. 

 stagecoach in Lymington, cartoon by Hugh Lohan

More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you enjoy these skilfully told tales and cartoons and you don't already receive our Weekly What's On e-newsletter do sign up to receive it on Friday mornings! 

 
 
 

Meanwhile, if you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi
Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

Lost in Lymington or London cartoon
Featured

Mark and Hugh on cartography featuring New Forest trig pillars

About New Forest trig pillars and other interesting facts

A fascinating history of cartography from the inimitable perspective of Mark and Hugh

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400This week Mark and Hugh cover the fascinating history of cartography. In their inimitable amusing style as always - but perhaps be prepared to concentrate a little more than usual!

Cartography. Mapmaking before the advent of radio waves.

In your youth you must have made a map or three. There might have been friends who were coming for dinner and needed to find their way to your secluded house. Or a neighbour who wanted to know where to find a hardware shop. Maybe it was when you were at school and you and your chum drew a map showing your hideout. A picture is worth a thousand words and all that. Here we have the essence of a map, a pictorial explanation of topographical features. These days we have the most incredible maps of all, everybody uses them and they are called collectively, Google Earth. These astonishing satellite images reveal the most intricate detail. We can even tell if the neighbour has finally cut the back lawn! There’s no hiding your laziness behind a six-foot-high fence when a satellite image will reveal all. You are being watched!

 But it wasn’t always like this, cartography used to be a grindingly tedious matter. Pioneering too.

A pace, a span, a yard, a chain, whatever!

Accurate measurement is a relatively recent phenomenon. It was the French who developed the metric system. Those who have worked in engineering will know that all measurements are given in millimetres. Not in the US though as they are very conservative and strictly Imperial (but don’t knock it, their system was good enough to put men on the moon).  Not that long ago, measurements were a little more arcane. If you wanted to measure the height of your nag you would simply have used your hands. Apparently, brave souls actually place their hands upon these unpredictable and powerful beasts in order to measure the height of the thing. You wouldn’t catch me doing it. It was reckoned that the average width of a hand was four inches. The measurement is taken from the ground to the top of the animal’s withers. At times ponies and horses have to be measured before entering certain races. Nowadays a metal rod with a horizontal bar at the top, a little like an upside-down L is used. The result might be, say, forty-eight inches which equals twelve hands. Similarly, we used to talk of a yard which was a pace; of a span, the distance between the outstretched little finger and thumb. Or perhaps a foot, well you can imagine what that might be. All in all, measurement used to be an unregulated and unreliable business.

Imagine that before the advent of standard accepted units you had to make a small map, the kind that we described earlier. Perhaps one that would take a walking pal from Beaulieu to Bailey’s Hard by way of the riverbank path? Perhaps, the type of sketch that might take your friend to the nearest local hostelry? Naturally, the sketch would never get him home as it would be dark and he might not walk in the straightest of lines. However, you will endeavour to get him to his refreshment. The first concern is distance. What tools are at your disposal? It can only be your legs surely? Off you go counting the paces before you come to the first corner. With the number of paces recorded neatly in your pocket notebook you then consider the angle of the corner, whether it is sharp or smooth. Then, off you go again, counting and recording.

So far, we have just managed a simple line sketch. For a moment, consider the complexity of an Ordnance Survey map. There are symbols galore depicting objects such as churches, with a spire or a steeple. Tracks, whether they be for those travelling by foot, bicycle or pony. Houses, villages, points of interest, places where the view is worth a pause. Finally, the most important symbol of all, PH. Public House, aaaah. The level of detail in these maps has to be studied to be believed. I had a friend who used to work at the Ordnance Survey, he told me that a colleague managed to (falsely) draw some contour lines in the shape of a Mickey Mouse head and ears. I’ve always meant to check. Apparently, it’s on a map of the Isle of Wight.

Ain’t no mountain high enough baby.

A simple plan view of the area is fine for most but for those who need a little more accuracy, we need something called a contour line. Try to imagine a cake that I have just cooked (I cannot cook). Instead of the usual flat-topped affair, your writer has constructed a catastrophe of a cake. A cake so awful that the sight of it could reduce Mary Berry to inconsolable tears. A cake so like the Himalayas that no chef could ever hope to decorate it with icing. Imagine that I was to take a knife and cut, neatly and horizontally, through my little sponge mountain range. Once complete we would have a cut line that, wherever you measured it, would be the same height from the kitchen table. This is how map makers tell us how the land lies. The contour line on a map will have the height of the line noted upon it somewhere. Once more I pick up the knife and I make another cut below the first one. You can imagine that on a steep bit of sponge there will be a small distance between the two cut lines. However, on a gentler slope the distance across the sponge will be greater. It’s no different on land, where we have a gentle slope it takes quite some distance to attain an increase in height of fifty feet. If we were on a very steep slope the distance across the ground would be much less. When you study the contour lines on a map you can actually see the hills, the gullies, the peaks. It’s all there.

I am constantly aware of my position.

I once knew two expert map readers and the ability they possessed was astonishing. One was a keen orienteering runner and I was teamed up with him once. I remember we came to a clearing and as we gathered our breath, he announced that the map was wrong. We were to go through the thicket that wasn’t marked correctly. He was right and we won the race. Another could actually navigate on featureless rolling hills. All he had was contour lines. These people are rare, for us mere mortals a careful and considered study of the OS map will usually get us there. Usually.

I am temporarily unsure of my position.

This is Army code for ‘I’m completely lost!’ Well, it happens. The military tend to take map reading quite seriously. After all, you really need to know exactly where you are when you call in an airstrike or a bombardment. To not bomb yourselves is considered good tactics. We civilians measure angles using degrees of which there are 360 in a circle. The military use an angular unit referred to as ‘mils’ of which there are 6400 in a circle, a considerable step up in accuracy. Also, the military use something called a romer, this is a small pictogram normally imprinted onto a transparent compass base. This helps the user to break down each map square into further divisions, thus increasing accuracy.

This is all old hat you silly duffer.

This is what you might be thinking or muttering as you read this and indeed, you are right. I am a silly old duffer and these methods are indeed old hat. The old methods are fast being forgotten. As we have mentioned before though, a map and a compass are truly cordless and also as an added bonus, no signal is required. You would be bananas to plan a trip up a mountain without these indispensable items. Mountain rescue teams have had to rescue many that have relied exclusively on electronic signals and battery power; both have proved vulnerable.

Our trig pillars.

You may have seen the odd trig pillars as you drive across the forest. There’s one close to the edge of the road that runs between Hilltop and Dibden Purlieu. These were erected by the Ordnance Survey and are designed to support a device called a theodolite. The pillars are like icebergs in that there’s more below the surface than there is above it. Many of these trig pillars are gone now, buried beneath new housing developments and such. Ours are largely untouched and, whilst they remain standing, they are a reminder of just how difficult and time-consuming map making used to be. In the early part of this article we described how early map makers used body parts as crude rulers. For more reliable maps, and in order to measure distance with greater accuracy surveyors used glass rods butted against one another. A theodolite was constructed in order to measure angles. This is a device which measures angles both horizontal and vertical and is essential to the map maker. The first took an unbelievable three years to construct and measured three feet across. However, it was found to be such a wonderful instrument that another was commissioned soon afterwards.

Child’s play.

Two of my favourite writers, Arthur Ransome and A. Wainwright were avid sketchers. Their books are peppered with tiny maps and chartlets. The next time your grandchildren have a pen and paper perhaps see if they can draw a map of the street. Gently tease them ‘Granny wants to go to the post office but she’s forgotten the way’. It should be interesting to see how they respond.

See you later, navigator.

 Lost in Lymington or London cartoon by Hugh Lohan

More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you enjoy these skilfully told tales and cartoons and you don't already receive our Weekly What's On e-newsletter do sign up to receive it on Friday mornings! 

 
 
 

Meanwhile, if you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

Pony drifts and pannage in the New Forest
A journey from the New Forest via Lymington

The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

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